Each year AIA holds Grassroots, a leadership conference for chapters and components designed to support and strengthen AIA’s leaders at all levels. This year’s event covered topics such as climate action, human and ecological health, racial, ethnic, and gender equity, and generational divides. Two leaders from the AIA Pittsburgh community – Board President Bea Spolidoro, AIA and Young Architects Forum Chair Greg Coni, AIA attended the 2022 AIA Grassroots conference and brought back some of their key takeaways to share with AIA Pittsburgh membership. Read on to find out what they learned!
Become the leader you’d want to follow by leading with compassion, listening to your teammates, trying to be objective about your thoughts, and finding the good in others. Be present, trust others and the process, and welcome change in a spontaneous way. In life, you are often both a leader and a follower. Life is a team activity.
Learn the difference between Acceptance and Agreement: Acceptance comes from forgiveness, and it is like a bridge. You can accept something even if you don’t necessarily agree with it, but acceptance will allow you to be more at peace with a situation you cannot change.
Regarding economics, Architecture firm unemployment has basically recovered, and the forecast is fairly optimistic for next year. However, we are facing increasing costs as a result of natural disasters. Many insurances are prying a lot out of pocket, more than in past years, for the severity of the effects of climate change.
The difference between Millennials and Boomers is not as much as we think it is if we take the time to engage with each other. Younger generations should focus on practicing patience, while older generations should build flexibility. Mentorship is very important, both ways, but particularly for younger generations. Fostering, nurturing, and improving communication between generations is the key to success.
In session on Zero Net Energy Buildings, we learned that it is not as expensive to accomplish as people may think. There is a way to do it within budget. It is achievable and it is not an option anymore. Maintaining a qualified workforce is a challenge, so we need to educate both designers and builders and raise our collective knowledge. An integrated approach to design that aligns client values with project goals is key.
The BUILDER approach to mental health from Lawrence Chatters – Breaking Down Barriers; Utilizing Understanding; Insight; Listen and Learn; Dream, Design, Deliver; Empathy; Relationships -is an excellent reminder of how to achieve balance in your life and your practice. You can read about the BUILDER framework here.
I found the entire event super inspiring and hopefully these takeaways – some inspirational, some simple reminders, and others, words of wisdom – are as helpful to you as they were to me.
As you all know, the start of a project can sometimes be overwhelming, but they shape the rest of the project, thus it’s important to start any project off right. The speakers had some great advice surrounding this topic. At the beginning of any project, it is important to take the time to understand the community and culture of the place you are working in. It is important to not come in with any preconceptions or solutions. Through our designs, we need to support the needs of the community we are working with and take the time to tell their stories.
For those that don’t know, the goals of the AIA’s 2021-2025 strategic plan are “Climate action for human and ecological health” and “Advance racial, ethnic, and gender equity.” Both goals were ever present at the discussions this year. In a discussion on sustainability, Pittsburgh’s 2030 District was highlighted as an example for other districts to reference. They specifically highlighted their progress reports and data as great examples. It was exciting to hear Pittsburgh called out at a national convention such as that and to know how much Pittsburgh is doing for sustainability. It was also a reminder though of how important it is as designers that we take on the job of helping our clients understand its importance and what life may be like if we don’t act. Sometimes it isn’t about convincing them of sustainability’s importance, but understanding where they are at with their values and goals and reframing sustainability to meet those goals.
Many of the speakers and discussions were centered around racial, ethnic, and gender equity. What hit me the most is that there are only about 500-600 women minority architects! That’s only 0.5% of all licensed architects. I was very proud to have graduated with such a racially, ethnically, and gender diverse class of fellow designers from college 6 years ago. After having joined the profession though, it has become apparent how much more work needs to be done. I will say that it was exciting to hear all that is being done and can still be done to improve equity within our profession. For starters, NOMA is not only for BIPOC individuals. It is important for everyone to support minority architects throughout the profession. Additionally, to have more minority architects, we need to generate a pipeline for more minorities to become architects. A great example is NOMA’s Project Pipeline, a camp for students of color in grades 6-12.
Finally, being a leader is a power to be wielded with care. My favorite quote from the 3 days is, “as a leader, it’s amazing how much change you can create just by opening the door to a conversation about change.” Hopefully, these insights opened a door for a little change in your daily life as a designer, architect, leader, or community member.